Blessings in the Search for Beauty

Reflecting on beauty can bring smiles, feelings of serenity

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During an annual retreat for deacons and their wives in our archdiocese, the presenters, a local Catholic psychologist and his wife, provided couples with practical tools for growing closer to God and closer to each other. This may sound like a familiar theme, or perhaps even suggestions from Captain Obvious, as there is plenty of research to show that couples that pray together stay together, and that growing closer to Christ is always a good thing for a marriage. But have we ever thought of how growing closer to God by searching for beauty can make a difference in our marriage covenant, which then naturally spills over into our ministries?

The presenters mentioned how easy it is in ministry to become overwhelmed, to take on too much and miss out on much that God’s creation has to offer. So, as one of our exercises, we were asked to go around the room and express where we recently noticed beauty in the world, and then to describe how we felt when we took even a few minutes to observe something magnificent in God’s green earth.

One of the attendees mentioned that she is blessed by the fact that her office has large windows that look out over an area full of trees. The trees themselves are always a sight to see as they change with the seasons, but since she loved to climb trees as a child, the pleasant memories they engender give her a profound sense of peace, as well as joy.

One of the deacons spoke of a recent trip he and his wife had taken to the Grand Canyon. The endless colors and rock formations filled them with wonder and gratitude for God’s magnificent designs. They returned home refreshed and ready to serve, once again, our awesome and mighty God.

Another participant mentioned how standing on the seashore during a Florida vacation brought him to tears as he noticed the intricate shells and countless lifeforms revealed by the ebb and flow of the tide. It made him feel humble, but also grateful, to be able to serve a God that speaks to us in something as small as a seashell or as large as the ocean.

The presenters then encouraged all of us not to wait for a weekend getaway or a holiday break to seek out beauty. It should be something we do daily, on our own and with our spouses. Since just reflecting on the blessings of beauty participants discovered and shared at that retreat brought smiles to faces and feelings of serenity, the presenters explained, just imagine the impact it could have if this exercise of searching for beauty became a regular habit? Wouldn’t it spill over into our ministries, continually reminding us of the grandeur of God, a grandeur that we would be compelled to share with not only family and friends but also parishioners and others we serve in ministry?

In a February meeting with members of an Italian film foundation established by the Italian bishop’s conference, Pope Francis told the filmmakers, never lose the desire to search for beauty and to help others do the same:

“Dear friends, the world troubled by war and so many evils needs signs, works that inspire wonder and that reveal the wondrousness of God who never ceases to love his creatures and to be amazed by their beauty. In an increasingly artificial world, where man has surrounded himself with the works of his own hands, the great risk is to lose a sense of wonder. I share this reflection with you, entrusting you with the task to reawaken wonder.”

The pope’s message to the filmmakers was released the same weekend as our retreat, and it was very similar to the messages shared with the diaconate couples. It was an affirmation and another reminder regarding the blessings that come from searching for beauty, finding it and passing it on, whether our platform is the movie theater, the ambo or a catechism class. We can help, as Pope Francis stressed, be an instrument of harmony, “as beauty is that work of the Holy Spirit which creates harmony out of everything.”

TERESA TOMEO is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95). She is married to Deacon Dom Pastore, an ordained deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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